How to Get Rid of Squatters

Last updated on December 28, 2015 by

SquattersWhen your tenant remains on your property without paying rent, he’s called a holdover tenant, also known as a tenancy at sufferance.

But you can also consider him to be a squatter – a person who unlawfully occupies property you own.

Sometimes squatters hold a certain attitude, as if they have rights to your property. And depending on the circumstances, and the local laws, they sometimes do.

That’s right! If a squatter has been allowed to occupy a property for some time, they might have the same landlord-tenant rights as holdover tenants.

Some jurisdictions are friendlier to squatters than others are. San Francisco, for example, has a tenants’ union that helps squatters stay on your property.

A Common Problem

Pay attention to this case, particularly if you live in the California:

What about Trespassers?

Let’s say you have rental property that has been vacant and you haven’t been to visit it for a while. When you do go … surprise! You find some uninvited and unwelcome residents living there. Can you kick them out?

It depends. In some cities, if squatters turned on utilities at that address in their name, they might be able to claim residency. Even though these people are stealing your property, the police consider this a civil, not a criminal, matter.

To get the squatters out, you would need to open a court case. Fun, huh? You probably know that most court systems aren’t exactly the epitome of efficiency. The case could take months or even years to resolve.

This is the dark side of landlording, and it’s a huge flaw in the justice system.

What You Can’t Do

If you find an unwelcome squatter living on your property or if you have a tenant who stopped paying rent, you can’t do the following:

  • Put padlocks on the place to keep him out
  • Shut off utilities
  • Try to intimidate him in any way

Courts could view those acts as self-help, or illegal, and could fine you.

Regarding shutting off utilities, it’s probably better to keep them on anyway. Your squatter might improvise by using candles that could start a fire. He also might continue to use the bathroom facilities … even when they aren’t working. Enough said there.

What You Should Do

Try to avoid a squatter situation from happening. If you plan to leave your property vacant, make sure that it’s secure. You or a property management company should also check on the place regularly.

If you already have a squatter, here’s what you could do:

  1. Call the Police
    Act immediately if you discover a squatter by calling the police. The longer you wait, the more likely it will be for the courts to think you gave this person consent to be there. If the police declare this a civil matter and won’t remove the squatter, start the eviction process.
  2. Give Notice, and then File an Unlawful Detainer action
    Once you serve the eviction notice, you could get lucky, and the squatter might leave. If not, you’ll need to file an unlawful detainer lawsuit, which is the formal way to evict. Make sure you follow your state’s laws.
  3. Hire the Sheriff to Force the Squatter Out
    If the squatter is still sticking around after you’ve won your lawsuit, you’ll need to pay for a sheriff or police officer to get him out.
  4. Legally Handle the Abandoned Personal Property
    Find out what you can and cannot do with any stuff the squatter might have left behind. You probably can’t just get rid of it and would need to follow proper procedure for your jurisdiction. Many times, you can place it in a storage unit at the tenant’s expense. If they don’t pay to remove the items, the storage facility will auction it off.


Property owners need to do what they can to protect themselves against squatters.

Unfortunately, the law favors squatters by treating them as tenants even though this is unfair to owners. It places the hardship on legal owners instead of on wrongful squatters. Until there are laws that give landlords immediate relief and that punish the squatters, we’ll see this problem continue.

Have you ever had a problem with a squatter? If so, share your story in the comments below.

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272 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Stephanie Littles

    I rented to a women with a child. But, I am not the owner of the house. I am renting the house. Just renting 1 of my bedroom. The Roomer was taken to Housing court. We had a Stipulation agreement. The Date of the eviction has past. She has moved some of her stuff out. But her legal aid called the Marshall’s to ask what is the status of the warrant. She hasn’t arrested for more time. I am very leary of her. Her mom has came to visit with her twice. She hasn’t paid rent in 6 months. I told her just leave with your money. But, My Apartment has a program attached, to help pay my rent. The Warrant will be served. Soon. What can she do next. I need to be Perpared. I made a Bad Mistake. :-(

    • Michelle

      if the eviction has been served all you need to do is call your local police enforcement and make sure they carry out the order remove her from the premises and that’s that. Nothing else needs to be done. Good luck she’s playing with you.

  • Stephanie Calla

    I rented my apt to a woman d her 2 kids for 1 week in February while she was between places. She paid me for that week, then requested to extend for a month, telling the repairs in her new apt were not finished yet. I let my guards down and i accepted because I was not planning on getting my next tenant until April. I didn’t think for one second the stay would go over 30 days and put me at high risk. Her cc was declined and she gave me stories, I waited some time as initially she didn’t give me signs to worry too much that she wouldn’t pay or leave. On march 24th, we started to have issues as I demanded payment. She refused, never left and never paid. I’m going to court for holdover now and im in a terrible situation now.

  • Henry

    What a shame to invest in California, save your money and your sanity. Like you said the system is in support of the squatters. Not only they hijaked my building for months now, I also spent over a 1k lawyer fees, got eviction then the squatter moved into another vacant unit, He forged a bill and now the Sheriff tells me I have to go to court again, means another months of lawsuit and lawyers fees. I lost tenants, the adjacent unit got broken into and cleaned the contents. My manger can not go to the building for he constantly gets harassed by the squatter. I think enough said, I will loose my building and I feel helpless. Governor Brown is running around in his yoga pj while we are losing our life savings. No mas Fresno!!

    • Joy Callahan

      I too have squatters who are ruining my parents home in Fresno. This town is full of losers and the police cater to crooks. Their is no justice in the Fresno justice system. California change your laws.

      • Stan maragos

        I can’t believe the California law on squatters
        Only Texas has the best law . Kick them out forget the courts . New York is little better , they still give them time to move out . Laws has to be change they favor the criminals theft of services is a law but not enforce on rentals only on hotels or restaurants .

  • Femi Ige

    I have a squatter living in a property that was left in the care of my two younger brothers who are co-owners inherited from our mother who passed. I had been away (incarcerated) for some years and the Brothers since left the city of the property (Philadelphia) and moved to California somewhere with a so-called tenent who pays no rent bearing the property. At this time I live in public assistive housing, unreasonably, and just want our family home back for residency. The two brothers are highly unlikely to contest. What do I do now, what is the best process. The squatter claims “permission” from one of the Brothers, but certainly does not have my own. Any help?

  • Walk

    My brother rented a room to this girl and her kids while his mother was in the hospital. This girl moved in with her kids and brought boyfriend too and they scared him off with threats to beat him up with a baseball bat. He vacates the property and they live there for months not paying rent. We started the eviction but it has given us financial hardship because the are contesting it. This law needs to change it has become a money maker for the courts. The owners are the only one being hurt this not justice. I would like to work with anyone who feels we can get this law changed.These people have the audacity to believe they belong there without paying RENT.

    • Joy Callahan

      I too have squatters who are ruining my parents home in Fresno. This town is full of losers and the police cater to crooks. Their is no justice in the Fresno justice system. California change your laws.

  • christina del valle

    I live with my husband soon to be ex. He has a girlfriend and two other kids by her. She left cause of cps but she threatened to kill my kids. She left he came home now he back at living in my house for free wont pay for any rent wont pay for utilities and he wont leave what can i do? He has made threats to my older kids and he denies everything

  • Shaun

    A piece of property was given to me by my mother-in-law. Unfortunately….the previous tenant (my brother in law) who moved out 2 years ago still claims he lives there. ( He actually lives across the street.) He left the place looking like a car parts junk yard. As I am having to use hand tools the cut the bush that has grown up I am hitting random junk. I removed a semi truck off the property and he accused me of stealing. Mind you, I asked him who it belonged to and he replied that it wasn’t his. He started parking his work trucks on the property and I called the police because he would not move them. ( I have no parking and no trespassing signs posted) That is when I found out that he is still using my address on his ID. Ergo Eviction.

  • Rod Fow

    My father left me his entire estate which includes a house.The he died.
    unfortunately he married the wrong woman BEVERLY WEBER-step mother,
    AND SHE WILL NOT VACATE MY PROPERTY , her daughter tracy hurst threatened me when i came to claim my property the day beverly was supposed to have been moved out , all i got was a bunch of stares from her aggressive hostile friends. The house is in tustin , ca.

  • Lynn

    NYCHA apt NYC ex-con squatter dealing and using drugs apt below me. Drug fumes in my apt. Apt renter claims, she solely rents the apt. People living there seem to be friends of her homeless daughter, also living illegally there. Mother claims to be a born again Christian. Not good. Active drug activity.

  • Rosa

    I live in California and own my house I make my house payments by myself about 9 months ago my brother decided to let his ex gf live here for 2 months and she still haven’t left well they got in a huge argument my brother moved out and now she does not want to leave even tho she does not pay rent here. And she’s is crazy she broke a window from the room and broke my car stereo and wrote on the walls of the room. I’m lost I called cops and they said I can’t kick her out, I don’t know wat to do honestly?

  • N. Johnson

    I bought a house in California so my mom had a place to live. I live elsewhere. My mother let my slacker brother move in. My brother let a guy stay for a few days without my knowledge. When this guy wouldn’t leave my brother could have let me know but he didn’t. We asked them why the utilities were so high but my brother and my mom just kept lying about it. The guy had been there 3 months before they admitted he was there. I told them to get rid of him. Instead my brother let more people move in. I got pretty mad so now I’m evicting everyone, who by California law, are tenants even though no one has ever paid any rent. The guy refuses to leave and it’s going to cost me over $1000 to get him, his dog, RV, and my garage full of his crap out.

  • JL Ellison

    I have a vacant rental property that someone moved into and changed the locks and turned on the electricity. She had expressed an interest in renting the property but it wasn’t ready. Now Ihave to go through the hole eviction process? Trying to figure out which notice is the correct one.

  • Carolin

    What if there was police imvolved and the police told them they need to get their stuff out lets say by today and the next day comes and their stuff is still in my place. What can i do? Btw the order wasn’t in writing they agreed to the police that they wouod leave the place that day.

  • Kp

    You’ll like this…..lived in a lovely quiet neighborhood for 25 years, and a (real) witch and an ex-con started squatting down the street. Skulls, skeletons, giant fires with incense in the front yard, they put up giant no trespassing signs on all the trees. He built a red cement voodoo mountain of skulls with glowing eyes about five feet tall . The property was auctioned on the courthouse steps last month. Because the witch woman was mysteriously taken to jail, Georgia squatters rights prohibit the new owner from taking any legal action to evict. We can’t sell our house because of the scary crap in their yard. 🚫

  • Bonnell Keller

    I have discovered that squatters have the right to force a single mother and her children to be homeless because they do not qualify for any protection under domestic violence or child abuse laws. She were unable to get a move out order, when she filed for a civil harassment restraining order, as she was forced into mediation and she had no idea as to her rights in the proceeding. Because she agreed to what the mediator forced her to agree to, she was not able to argue her case in front of the judge. She is still having to pay rent of the place as well as the PG&E as she is buying the house from me. She and her children are back living with me as a result of her mistake in letting these distant relatives move in with her.

  • ludovik benedek

    i own a 4 family house in bedsty which is vacant . I am planing to renovate it
    i check on the property every 2 weeks . I locked the front door and put a large steel chain padlock on front door.
    This week i passed by and see door open and people going in and out of building. when i confronted them they said they live there and have a lease , which they showed dated in april . Landlords name is nothing similar to mine . I called the police who came and told me they cant do nothing i have to go to court . they refused to question the peole to get proof that they live there for 30 days . next door neighbor told police that they broken in last week . Police still refused to put them out . POLICE REFUSE TO HELP

  • Lost-home

    Squatter broke in a city enforced closed room that had uninhabitable violations, that the owner paid to the tenant after the forced room closure, the squatter has created multiple water penalty fines costing more then 5,000.00 each month the power is 6,000 a month, law forces us to keep utilities on, which ended up unable to pay the mortgage, lossing house from default problems now, had a stroke and I’m a Korean war vet over 80 yrs old, the squatter keeps slashing my tires, leaving the shower running all night long, turning on the air conditioning with all windows and doors open, breaking the toilets then reports to city health department, police REFUSE to get involved, is this ELDER ABUSE by the squatter?

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